A Visit to the Great American Cooter Festival

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UPDATE: Chris Moling, a Cooter Fest organizer, got back to me on my inquiry as to why there was no cooter to eat at the festival:


"We had turtle nuggets scheduled to be there, but that food vendor cancelled,


due to fear of a rainout, and there wasn't enough time to get another


vendor. We try to give an exclusive on the sale of the "Cooter Nuggets" for


the festival, so you can imagine how much of a letdown this was. We had them


last year and they were a BIG hit.


As for the law, it IS unlawful to catch, cook, or eat wild Cooters. They are


protected. However, you can buy farm grown Cooters for cooking and


even ... racing, if you want. We had 25 yellow-bellied sliders at this


year's event and I feel safe to say that they were some of the fastest


Cooters anywhere. Ours were not used for consumption, since they make such


great pets. WE LOVE OUR COOTERS!"


cooter race 2

Cooter Fest

I don’t know what you did this weekend, but I saw a bunch of cooters … at the Great American Cooter Festival in Iverness, Florida!

It was typical small-town Florida festival — vendors carrying Confederate flags, scented candles and fried dough. But there were also cooter races, Miss Cooter 2007 and a Cooter Idol contest. Sadly I did not get to eat cooter. Although they sell rattlesnake meat at the annual Rattlesnake Festival in Dade City, I couldn't get a bite of cooter anywhere around Inverness.

Cooter RaceThis might be a good time to point out that a “cooter” is a Southern term for turtle, specifically red- and yellow-belly sliders. Although, some people call it a double entendre. And while we're on this point: A co-worker suggested that this type of festival could only happen with the slang term referring to the female anatomy and not the male. I beg to differ and present University of South Carolina's "Cockfest" as Exhibit A. (South Carolina, by the way, also started the first Cooter Festival.)

Anywho, this was the festival’s fourth year. Despite a hubbub over the name in 2004 — in which some citizens questioned the city’s sponsorship of the event — the festival has gradually attracted more and more visitors. Even Comedy Central has done a piece on the event.

If you haven’t had the chance to go, I’d suggest checking it out next year. And don’t forget to buy a T-shirt.

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